Ways to beat midsemester burnout

by Shelbi Voss

Across campus I have heard one recurring opinion from students of all disciplines. Burnout is very real, and seemingly more apparent these days. Whether it is the drain of online classes, a lack of outlets due to event cancellations, or simply not getting out because of health and safety precautions, feeling unmotivated or just getting by is familiar to students everywhere.

I did not realize how widespread the burnout was until one of my professors asked for our honest opinions about three weeks ago. She wanted to know how her class of 50 students was faring and if we needed to take a step back, and without hesitation the entire Zoom call was filled with strong exclamations of how people were feeling, thumbs up reactions, and a clear consensus that something was different about this semester. My professor and our Teaching Assistant felt no different, and we took a whole week off to regroup and forget about the work that was planned for the week in question.

It is hard to think that next semester might hit us just as hard, if not harder due to winter weather and the cancellation of Spring Break. The inability to just take a walk when we feel cooped up or relax on the quad to get some sun will be taken away from us. Right now it feels as though the world just keeps moving and we never get a chance to catch up, but there are simple ways that allow us to find a sense of calm with very little effort.

Keeping up with what seems like hours of work per day is daunting. Give yourself time every day to clear your mind. How that time is spent may be different for everyone. It could be finding a new movie or game to sit with for some time, discovering a new favorite TV show and watching a few episodes per day or carving out time to make music or art. I have found that these little breaks keep me more focused at the points when I do sit down to work and it is easier to absorb the information rather than cram it all into my mind.

The weather might be changing but that is all the more reason to get outdoors while you can. My roommates and I try to get outside at least once a day, even if just for a short walk. The fresh air is a mood booster and can help you feel rejuvenated to tackle that next online lecture or assignment that has been put off for weeks.

Something that has truly made a difference for me recently is really allowing myself to take a deep breath. It sounds simple, but I realized that throughout the day I go from one thing to the next without pausing. School, work and student organizations all just blur into spouts of 24 hour periods to get the job done. The continuous pattern of every day carries a lot of mental and physical tension with it. To quiet the feeling that I am buzzing around from one place to the next or just a robot at a computer, I release that tension and take a deep breath in. So next time you take a moment and realize you have worked non-stop, relax your jaw, shoulders, back and limbs, close your eyes, and flush out the tightness that you were consciously or unconsciously holding in.

These are not the only solutions to these problems, and they may seem silly or obvious, but that can often be what we need to slow down. There is no need to feel ashamed or wrong for taking time to center yourself in between tasks. Remember to find what works for you and use it to keep you sane in this crazy world we live in.

Photo courtesy of Illini Union